New poll gives Ken hope

Boris just two points ahead of Ken in first YouGov poll on mayoral race.

Don't write off Red Ken just yet. The first YouGov poll on the London mayoral race puts Boris ahead on first preferences by just two points (46 per cent). There are still other candidates to come, not least from the Greens and the Lib Dems, who could cut into Ken's vote ("Liberal Democrat candidate" is on 4 per cent and "some other candidate" is on 7 per cent), but this poll will reassure Labour officials rattled by an earlier ComRes survey that put Boris nine points ahead.

The significant support for Ken suggests that his age (he will turn 67 in June 2012) and his political baggage aren't necessarily barriers to his re-election. The poll also found that 56 per cent of voters approve of his time in office and that Ken is seen as more competent (52 per cent to 45 per cent) and in touch (44 per cent to 40 per cent) than Boris.

There is still plenty of ground to make up: in a straight contest between the pair, Boris would beat Ken by 46 per cent to 41 per cent, and 58 per cent of voters approve of his record. But this poll provides the Livingstone campaign with plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.